Part 2: Exercises to Improve a Dancer’s Turn Out
There are 4 exercises listed below that the physical therapists at Westside Dance like to use to educate dancers on healthy turn out. To assess if these exercises are needed, see Part 1. Be sure that the deep external rotators are working with these movements.
Side-Lying Hip External Rotation
The dancer will lie on their side with the top leg on a bolster or on an elevated object to keep the pelvis level. The bottom leg will be straight and lined up directly underneath the trunk. The bottom knee is flexed to 90 degrees. The patient will activate the 6 deep hip external rotators to slowly turn out the thigh, which will ultimately lift the foot off of the floor. Caution: The dancer should be monitored and cued to ensure proper muscle activation as it is easy to substitute with gluteus maximus, hamstring, and/or the adductor muscle dominance.
Hint: activating the core musculature (transverse abdominis) first will help with the proper turn out contraction.
Turn Out Discs
Have your dancer stand on the discs with their feet parallel, and 50% of their weight in their heels. Instruct them to turn out on the discs. Their feet and knee should be relaxed, and their pelvis should remain in neutral without creating a posterior pelvic tilt. A posterior pelvic tilt can commonly be known as ‘tucking’, and this can inhibit activation of the deep hip external rotators. The therapist can even create a sequence for the dancer such as: parallel stance –> parallel plie –> first position plie –> first position.
Weight Shifting in First Position
Now that your dancer knows how to find the deep hip external rotators, they can begin to activate it in plié, and on one leg. The dancer begins by performing a first position plié with proper deep hip ER activation and neutral pelvic alignment. They can then transfer their weight into a coupé while maintaining one leg bent. Finally, while maintaining the coupé, your dancer can straighten the standing leg. The challenge is to maintain the proper deep hip external rotator activation the whole time without hiking one side of the pelvis up or rotating one side of the pelvis forward. This is an excellent exercise that can apply the deep hip external rotator activation to more complex movements in class.
Single Leg Closed Chain Hip External Rotation
The dancer will stand on one leg in parallel plié. Next, he or she will rotate the pelvis away from the standing leg while maintaining the position of the standing leg, knee and foot facing forward. A hold at the end of the range can be added before controlling the pelvis back to the starting position. The dancer must use the hip external rotators on the supporting leg to perform this exercise, the patella should line up over the 2nd toe during the entire movement.